Pritchard Rodeo 2017    

A whole year has past and once again I joined my friends and neighbours for a dusty, fun-filled Sunday at the Pritchard Rodeo.

Now that the rodeo has come and gone and I am sitting at my computer looking through the many pictures I took, it is easy to see that I had a great time. Actually I am pretty sure everyone that attended, participants, organizers, spectators and photographers, had a great time.

This year’s event was a little sparse. Not when it came to all the spectators, the stands were full. But the numbers of cowboys and cowgirls participating was way down because of the wildfires across the province. I expect many were either evacuated and were struggling to safeguard their homes and livestock or they couldn’t get to the rodeo with all the road closures.

The days leading up to this weekend have been smoke filled and the sky has been grey. But by 10AM on Sunday blue sky with a few clouds. My friend Dave Monsees stopped by my house and ten minutes later we were ringside with our cameras, Dave with his 100-400mm and me with my 70-200mm.

At 1PM the Rodeo Chairman, Pritchard Rodeo stood center ring and waved his hat, the announcer called out the first event, a bronc rider burst into the arena, and all the photographers along the rails started shooting.

I’ve written before how suitable the Pritchard Rodeo grounds are for photographers. There’s a strong metal arena railing that makes it safe to stand close to the action without restricting the view. And every year I look forward to standing there along side all the other photographers that, like me, enjoy capturing the fast moving test of wills between animals and riders. I think that photographing any action event is fun and there’s always action at a rodeo.

This year I met two well-known British Columbia rodeo photographers, Elaine Taschuk from Vancouver and Tony Roberts from Kelowna. They talked about other rodeos in BC and their favourite lenses for capturing the action, and naturally the Canon vs. Nikon quips were flying.

Pritchard is the only rodeo I attend. Its close by, easy to get to, and easy to photograph. All one has to do is pay attention to where the participants are coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera. Then I select shutter priority, choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use Shutter priority (“TV” on Canon and “S’ on Nikon) so I can select the shutter’s speed and let the camera choose the aperture. Yep, it’s darned easy.

This year’s rodeo (or any rodeo for that matter) was a great way to spend the day. When I got home I downloaded my images and quickly edited out those that didn’t look good, then cropped and balanced the exposure on those I chose to keep.

There will be lots of rodeos over the summer and into the fall that are well worth any photographer’s time. My advice is to grab that camera and mount any zoom lens that, at least, goes to 200mm. Then enjoy a day that will fill your computer with some great action photographs.

The Annual Pritchard Rodeo       

Pritchard Rodeo

Canadian Flag

Bull wins

Cow-1 Cowgirl-0 Dustin

Lost the seat

Roper  Barrel racer

Barrel racer 2

Wild bronc

Bucked off Bareback ride

Hard ride

Cooling off ringside

As usual July has been a busy month, and, along with everything else, this past weekend had been one of my most looked forward to events to photograph, the annual Pritchard Rodeo.

I know I write about it every year, but I like talking about subjects that I take pictures of and there is nothing like fast paced subjects to keep photographers on their toes and rodeos, easy as they are to photograph, are always worth taking a camera.

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. It has an arena that is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the photographer’s view. Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for competitions like the Barrel Race, but it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, and not some silly person with a camera.

When photographing fast, volatile subjects like those at a rodeo I prefer shutter priority mode where I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. I like shutterspeeds of 1/500th or more if possible. One also must be aware of depth-of-field, and I balance my shutterspeed and aperture taking that into consideration.

All I do is follow the action, choose a position that allows everything to move towards me, and let the camera’s computer handle the rest. Yes, it’s all so easy for photographers, no matter what their skill, to get images worth framing.

I remember a friend telling me last year why he liked attending the Pritchard Rodeo. He said, “I like the wild location. Look at the hills, and trees, and all the open space. Everyone is so friendly, they say hello even though they don’t know me, and there is even a beer garden with people socializing, but no one is getting drunk, being loud, or causing trouble.”

My favorite activities to photograph are the bronc riding, and bull riding events. The action is explosive and I think the participants (horses, bulls, and riders) pitted against each other are well matched and one can never be sure who will win. I am of the opinion that both animals and humans know it is a game.

I also enjoy photographing barrel racing. What a great subject to photograph. Trying to capture what seems to me like a gravity-defying moment as horse and rider, fast and furiously, circle the barrel is exciting.

I am pretty lucky to have a local annual rodeo about five minutes from my home. I can go there to have fun, socialize with friends, and still get as many shots (that are keepers) of the rodeo as I can.

I said this last year and I will say it again. There should be a note saying,

“No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

Photography at the Pritchard Rodeo

This father and son are watching the action at the Pritchard Rodeo.

This father and son are watching the action at the Pritchard, British Columbia Rodeo.

I never know who is going to win.

I never know who is going to win.

I think that horse is smiling.

I think that horse is smiling.

Root for who ya want...

Cow one, cowboy zero.  Root for who ya want…

I called this "Defying gravity"..I have never seen 'em fall..

I called this “Defying gravity”..I have never seen ’em fall..

Concentrating and holding on.

Concentrating and holding on.

I don't think riding sidesaddle is appropriate.

I don’t think riding sidesaddle is appropriate.

I'll call this, "Quick Dismount"

I’ll call this, “Quick Dismount”

Maybe this is why they call bull riding dangerous. Ya wouldn't this that big fell could jump that high.

Maybe this is why they call bull riding dangerous. Ya wouldn’t this that big fell could jump that high.

Thats what I call a high kick !

Thats what I call a high kick !

“When photographing fast-paced, erratically-moving subjects like those at a rodeo I would select Shutter priority. I like shutterspeeds of 1/500th or more and one always needs to be aware of depth-of-field, and balancing the shutter speed and aperture for that. Wide apertures reduce the field of focus in front of and behind your focus point, so leave room for the moving subject; something like f/8 or better yet, f/11 would be safest.”

That was part of a discussion I had with a fellow photographer while standing beside the arena at the Pritchard, BC Rodeo last Sunday.  I had been laughing about the not-so-successful attempts two wranglers were having as they tried to lasso a wily bronco.  As we talked I was quickly pointing my camera at the action, and the other fellow wondered why I wasn’t paying attention to my settings in the changing daylight.

I asked how he set his camera and his response was he first tried his camera on Manual mode and had just switched to Aperture priority.  I am sure either of those would work well, and I have no doubt that some photographers who shoot rodeos professionally will have their own advice to him.

I was there to have fun, socialize with friends, and still get as many shots (that were keepers) of the rodeo as I could. Shutter priority assured that I’d always have a shutterspeed that would stop the action.

My first goal was to get the light correct and keep it correct without constantly resetting the camera. The only “chimping” (a term used to describe the habit of checking every photo on the camera LCD immediately after capture) I would do was to check my camera’s Histogram every now and then.

Shutter priority was as close to point-and-shoot as I could get in an environment where my attention might stray. Fortunately this was a local rodeo and I was very familiar with the grounds and where the action would take place. When an event was about to change I would casually walk around the arena to where I had in the past found the best place to photograph that particular activity.

My favorites to photograph are Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Steer and Bull riding.  The action is explosive and I think the participants (horse and rider, or bull and rider) pitted against each other are well matched and one can never be sure who will win. I am of the opinion that both animals and humans know it’s a game. For example, I watched a large black bull crashing around in the bucking chute, giving the handlers a hard time as the rider tried to get mounted. The gate opened, rider and bull exploded into the arena with the bull bucking, rearing, kicking, spinning, and twisting. Although he did his best to hang on for the required eight seconds, the contest ended with the cowboy being thrown.

Bullfighters rushed to help the rider, possibly expecting additional aggression from the bull, but at that moment that large, black, dangerous bull’s attitude immediately seemed to change from “death incarnate” to, well, a nice fellow out for a stroll. And that’s exactly what he did, casually walked back to exit the arena to brag to his buddies.

My photographs didn’t show that mellow conclusion, that’s not what we expect at the rodeo. Instead they are great action photos of what has been called, “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports”.

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. The arena is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the view.  Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for the Barrel Race, but heck, it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, not some silly person with a camera.

I’ll mention that Barrel Racing is also a great subject to photograph, and trying to perfectly capture what seems like a gravity-defying moment as horse and rider, fast and furiously, circle the barrel is exciting.

I know there are more rodeos scheduled for the British Columbia rodeo circuit ahead and interested photographers can expect an enjoyable, energy-packed day of photography that, at times, will test their skills.

I always appreciate any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com